Nearly every day since late January, when Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that required Iowa School districts to offer 100% in-person learning options amid concerns of COVID-19, Cedar Rapids Sen. Rob Hogg has been updating his social media accounts with pediatric case counts.
The numbers have been increasing lately.
“Since January 29, the date when Gov. Reynolds signed SF160 to force schools to offer 100% in-person without providing safety precautions, Iowa has now reported over 6,800 new cases among Iowa’s kids,” Hogg wrote in a Tweet on Sunday.
Since January 29, the date when Gov. Reynolds signed SF160 to force schools to offer 100% in-person without providing safety precautions, Iowa has now reported over 6,800 new cases among Iowa's kids.
It's up from 34,574 on Jan. 29 to 41,434 today for increase of 6,860.
— Rob Hogg (@SenatorRobHogg) April 11, 2021
“Of the 3,651 new cases reported this week (Apr. 4-11), there were 648 new cases among kids under age 18. That’s up from 591 the prior week (Mar. 28-Apr. 4),” said another tweet.
Hogg, who retrieves his counts daily from the state’s COVID dashboard accessibility page, said he began the practice because it was a clear display of the impacts of the state’s lax pandemic restrictions. He, and other Iowans close to coronavirus numbers, have recently warned of quick upticks in child positives.
“I think it’s one of those areas where you can just tangibly see bad decision making by Governor Reynolds and others that have led directly to the preventable spread of the disease until school started. Late last August, we had in Iowa just a few thousand child cases. What, eight months into the school year, we’re now over forty-one thousand kid cases,” Hogg said to Iowa Starting Line.
“To me, it is one of the most clear-cut examples of the total failure of her leadership through this pandemic.”
As of Sunday night, Iowa City schools reported 984 students and 27 staff members in quarantine, with three teachers and 141 students positive with COVID-19. This is an even sharper increase from earlier in the week when an uptick of 564 students and 22 staff members were quarantined while 99 students and four staff were positive.
Hospitalizations for the 0-17 age group in the state have been oscillating between zero and as high as 6%, Hogg said, which would have been rare in the early days of the pandemic.
“We have seen an uptick in the number of kids both being diagnosed with COVID-19 or being quarantined because of an exposure risk,” said Iowa COVID-19 Tracker founder Sara Willette, who has been working since early September with Iowa State Education Association to gather counts of positive COVID-19 cases reported by individuals or by school districts.
“The age groups that are being affected now are skewing younger and younger and younger.”
Experts say that the in-person school policies, mixed with the spread of more contagious variants of the virus and a lack of vaccination in children are contributors to this rise.
“[Child cases] were subtly decreasing pretty steadily. But as the state and individual counties started kind of lighting up, new positives were showing up as B.1.1.7 [variant] was gaining predominance, we’ve seen kid cases as well as the 18-30 group increasing faster than the 40 and up groups,” said Willette.
Indiana University School of Medicine professor Dr. James Wood told the Chicago Sun Times that younger children “probably won’t be eligible for the vaccine until late fall or winter at the earliest.”
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is only available for those 16 years and older. Both the Johnson & Johnson and the Moderna vaccines are only allowed for those 18 years and older. Pfizer on April 9 put in a formal request with the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization, allowing for its vaccine to be given to those ages 12 and older.
“I’m worried about the consequences for kids now and in the future, especially with the long haul consequences of this disease that this virus is causing. I’m worried about the unknown, long-term consequences for kids. And I’m also very concerned about the number of people to whom kids are spreading the disease through in their families or staff at schools or just the general public,” said Hogg. “This is it’s an important aspect of the ongoing public health emergency.”
by Isabella Murray
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